Best Novel: Dave Hutchinson – Europe in Winter (Solaris)
Best Shorter Fiction: Jaine Fenn – “Liberty Bird” (Now We Are Ten, NewCon Press)
Best Non-Fiction: Geoff Ryman – 100 African Writers of SFF(Tor.com)
Best Artwork: Sarah Anne Langton – Cover for Central Station by Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon Publications)
The BSFA Awards are based on a vote of association members and members of the British national science fiction convention Eastercon. In each category, the BSFA awards aim to recognize the most worthy examples in each category, promote science fiction as a genre, and most importantly, get people reading, discussing and enjoying all aspects of contemporary science fiction.
Check Sci-Fi4Me’s Calendar of Events for the next Eastercon as well as other conventions and shows scheduled in your area.
The Star Wars Celebration convention is often touted as creator/director George Lucas’s love letter to fans, and never more so than this year’s 40th anniversary event in Orlando. What began as a little “space opera” opening with ten simple words shining blue on a black screen: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” has grown into a powerful film franchise spanning decades, and has attracted an enormous global audience of fans both young and old.
The joy surrounding this Celebration convention was expected to be somewhat subdued by the death in December 2016 of actress Carrie Fisher. Emotional tributes to Star Wars’ feisty and much-beloved Princess Leia certainly abounded during the 4-days, as cast and crew members from the film series appearing onstage shared many fond memories of working with the candid actress/writer, portraying Fisher as a no nonsense woman who wielded an acerbic and often outrageous wit.
“When I cast it, I said I want somebody young to play the part,” said director Lucas. “I want somebody very young. When Carrie came in, she was that character. She was very strong, very smart, very funny, very bold, very tough, and there really wasn’t much of a question. There are not very many people like her. They are one in a billion. For this particular part, it was absolutely perfect. … She wore a dress through the whole thing, but she was the toughest in the group.”
Lucas went on to say, “She will always be the princess who took command and never backed down, never was in jeopardy. She was always helping the other guys get out of the messes she created. We’ll all love her forever and ever.”
Mark Hamill Speaks About Fisher
In his moving talk, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) began by saying, “Here’s a panel I hoped we wouldn’t have for another 30 years.” After pausing for a moment of obvious emotion, he then went on to share many of his favorite personal stories of Fisher. Hamill also played touching video tributes from both director Lucas and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
Onscreen, Kennedy described what would be the final time she saw Fisher, when she went to her house to show her the “young Leia” CGI-enhanced cameo from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
“I rolled this shot, and she didn’t say anything right away, she just sort of leaned back stunned. She…dropped the F bomb several times,” Kennedy added. “She said, ‘Oh my effing God!’ I said, ‘Yeah, it’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?!’ She said, ‘Yeah, I can’t believe it.'”
Surprise Appearance by Fisher’s Daughter Billie Lourd
Of all the moving tributes to the late Fisher, perhaps none was more poignant than the unannounced appearance of her daughter Billie Lourd, making her first public appearance since her mother’s death, wearing a custom-designed Princess Leia-inspired white dress. Lourd was introduced by Lucas during Celebration’s “Forty Years of Star Wars” opening panel, and spoke directly to fans about the mother she loved and the person she most admired.
“My mom used to say she never knew where Princess Leia ended and Carrie Fisher began,” Lourd said. “She was imperfect in many ways but her imperfections and willingness to speak about them are what made her more than perfect. My mom, like Leia, wasn’t ever afraid to speak her mind and say things that might have made most people uncomfortable.”
“She taught me by her own example, that the most evolved person is seemingly a contradiction – they are both the strongest and the most vulnerable person in the room. And that was her. That is Leia.”
Lourd finished her speech by introducing a special tribute video featuring the first footage of Fisher on the set of what would be her final film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Following a year-long competition, the World Fantasy Awards Administration and the Board of the World Fantasy Convention selected a design from artist and scupltor Vincent Villafranca. The new design will be presented at the World Fantasy Awards in San Antonio, TX during the annual convention November 2-5, 2017.
The selection process involved invitations to artists with a proficiency in 3-D arts in the fantasy and horror communities. The shortlisted contenders were asked to supply a model of their designs, which were then provided to a foundry for quotes on pricing to make sure the new award would fit within the budget of conventions moving forward.
The World Fantasy Award Statuettes are for excellence within the Fantasy genre, presented annually at the World Fantasy Convention. The categories are Life Achievement, Novel, Long Fiction, Short Fiction, Anthology, Collection, Artist, Special Award-Professional and Special Award-Non-Professional.
The original award, a bust of author H.P. Lovecraft, was designed by Gahan Wilson. However, with increased controversy surrounding Lovecraft’s perceived prejudice, the design was retired after forty years of use. Lovecraft’s image will still be used for the nominee pins given to all who are shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award.
The design itself follows the Administration’s desire for an award that would encompass the entirety of the fantasy field, from high fantasy to horror. Trees can be found throughout our various cultures, from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil to Yggdrasill, trees have featured in a number of stories that would fall into the fantasy genre.
SFWA Announces Nebula Award Nominees, Heinlein Award
The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America have announced their nominees for this year’s Nebula Awards, with a corrected ballot that was announced on February 20th.
Due to an error in word count verification, Cat Rambo’s “Red in Tooth and Cog” was replaced on the Novelette ballot by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s “The Orangery”. Turns out Rambo’s work came in with a word count under the eligibility threshold of 7,500 words.
Rambo, who’s also the current president of the SFWA, said, “The Nebula Awards are about celebrating amazing works by talented writers in our genre. I choose to see the silver lining in that we elevate another writer to the stage, and keep the ballot otherwise intact.”
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
Borderline, Mishell Baker (Saga)
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Ninefox Gambit,Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
Everfair, Nisi Shawl (Tor)
Runtime, S.B. Divya (Tor.com Publishing)
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson (Tor.com Publishing)
The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle (Tor.com Publishing)
Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
“The Liar”, John P. Murphy (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Publishing)
“The Long Fall Up”, William Ledbetter (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
“Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea”, Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed)
“Blood Grains Speak Through Memories”, Jason Sanford (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
“The Orangery”, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
The Jewel and Her Lapidary, Fran Wilde (Tor.com Publishing)
“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, Alyssa Wong (Uncanny)
“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, Brooke Bolander (Uncanny)
“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood)
“Sabbath Wine”, Barbara Krasnoff (Clockwork Phoenix 5)
“Things With Beards”, Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld)
“This Is Not a Wardrobe Door”, A. Merc Rustad (Fireside Magazine)
“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, Alyssa Wong (Tor.com)
“Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station│Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed)
In addition to the Nebulas, the SFWA also presents the Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, the Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award, and the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.
Arrival, Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Screenplay by Eric Heisserer, 21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films/Xenolinguistics
Doctor Strange, Directed by Scott Derrickson, Screenplay by Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill, Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures
Kubo and the Two Strings, Directed by Travis Knight, Screenplay by Mark Haimes & Chris Butler; Laika Entertainment
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Directed by Gareth Edwards, Written by Chris Weitz & Tony Gilroy; Lucusfilm/ Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures
Westworld: ‘‘The Bicameral Mind’’, Directed by Jonathan Nolan, Written by Lisa Joy & Jonathan Nolan; HBO
Zootopia, Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, & Jared Bush, Screenplay by Jared Bush & Phil Johnston; Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Animation Studios
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers)
The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s)
The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK; Abrams)
Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)
Railhead, Philip Reeve (Oxford University Press; Switch)
The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Delia Sherman (Candlewick)
The latest Grand Master to be added to the roster is Jane Yolen, who was selected in November 2016. Yolen’s reaction: “To know I am now on the same list as Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton, and Ursula Le Guin is the kind of shock to the system that makes me want to write better each day. Revise, revision, and reinvent.”
Voting will begin among active members on March 1, 2017, with the award presentation during the 51st annual Nebula Conference, held this year May 18-21 in Pittsburgh, PA at the Marriott City Center.
First presented in 1966, the Nebulas are given to the best works of science fiction and fantasy published in the United States as selected by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, made up of professional science fiction and fantasy authors.
The SFWA has also announced that this year’s Robert A. Heinlein Award for “outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space” will be presented to Robert J. Sawyer.
The award will be presented during the 51st Maryland Regional Science Fiction Convention (Balticon 51), and Sawyer will join via Skype while he attends ConQuesT in Kansas City.
The Heinlein Award was founded by the Grand Master’s long time friend Dr. Yoji Kondo, and recipients are selected by a committee of science fiction writers.
Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there was an internet writer who decided she wanted to teach the world about fairy tales. Why, the readers ask, would she want to do this? We know what fairy tales are; they are children’s stories of princes and princesses, good and evil, and eventually a happy ending. Yes, says the blogger, but are fairy tales really that simple? Where did they come from? Why do they have happy endings? Are they just a way to entertain children, or is there some meaning behind them? The readers look at each other and wonder: is she right? Is there more to learn about fairy tales that we do not know? The writer replies to the audience, there are many things to learn and today, in honor of Tell a Fairy Tale Day, I will teach you.
Let’s first start with the definition of fairy tale: a short narrative that usually features folkloric fantasy characters like dwarves, dragons, elves, gnomes, witches, and, of course, fairies. It is a story that is far-fetched and could not possibly be true. Usually it will also end with unusual happiness, that so-called “fairy tale ending.”
Fairy tales differ from other folk narratives such as legends, fables, and parables. Legends are tales of human actions that demonstrate values and certain qualities that can make them credible. Fables are moral lessons, usually in verse, that feature animals, plants, objects, or forces of nature that are given human qualities. Parables are fables but with human characters. Fairy tales also offer only superficial references to religion and real places, people, and events, which is why they take place with the “once upon a time” phrase.
The term “fairy tale” comes from the German word “Mär,” which means story or tale. The word “Märchen” is the diminutive form of the word, meaning “little story.” Grouped with “once upon a time” means the tale is a little story from a long time ago, when the world was still magical. The English term comes from the French contes, or stories of adventures, that often included fairies.
If fairy tales are not based on reality, where did they come from? Simply one’s imaginations?
Almost. People have tried to track down the origins of fairy tales but found it difficult because they usually start as oral storytelling, passed from generation to generation. It is not until the stories were collected and written that they can be given a date. They are grouped in the fantasy genre category of folktales because the tales did not originate from the elite, but the uneducated “volk” (the people in German).
The stories were told or acted out instead of being written. During the 17th century, aristocratic women turned them into a parlor game. Originally starting out in French salons where men and women could gather and discuss the issues of the day, the women began to perform in their own living rooms with their friends. They would choose their topic, be it arts, politics, or social matters that concerned them, such as marriage, love, independence, and access to education. They would tell old tales or create new ones, showcasing their verbal abilities and imagination while cleverly commenting on the conditions of aristocratic life. Performing what seemed naturally and spontaneous, the use of decorative language allowed them to critique and tell stories that would pass the court censors. These tales usually featured young clever girls whose lives were controlled by fathers, kings, and wicked fairies, and received helped by wise fairies to achieve a happy ending.
How did they become children’s stories then?
Even though the tales were originally for adults, servants would tell them to the children. In fact, when The Brothers Grimm collected fairy tales, they had to rewrite several of the stories because of complaints they were not suitable for children. For instance, in the first edition of Rapunzel, the prince’s visits were revealed when the witch noticed that her clothing had grown tight and she believed Rapunzel to be pregnant. Later editions would state it was easier for her to pull up the prince than the witch. Even though the sexual undertones of the stories were cleaned up, the violence, especially when punishing villains, were increased.
The Brothers who?
The first fairy tales to be collected and written were French. However, in an attempt to preserve fairy tales, German academics Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm began collecting and publishing folklore in the 19th century. They acquired an interest in folklore while attending the University of Margurg, which lead them to the goal of researching and recording folk stories. They would hear the stories and decide which would be an “official fairy tale” or not. If two were similar, they would choose the more Germanic version as a way of resistance from the French occupation during the Napoleonic era. They would document and rework tales based on the audience. Since many of the stories were not originally intended to be children’s tales, the Grimms’ added introductions for parents with the advice they steer their children toward more age-appropriate stories. They also made changes to the tales so they would become more “warnings” for the youth.
Other examples of changes made, besides Rapunzel, are Snow White, when the Queen, who is actually her biological mother, orders the Huntsman to kill her and bring back the child’s lungs and liver so she can eat them. In The Goose Girl, a servant is stripped naked, attached to a barrel studded with sharp nails, and rolled down the street. The princess never kissed the frog in The Frog Prince, she threw him against a wall.
The Grimms were criticized for their stories being too German. Other scholars also attempted to collect and document tales. The one consistency that was found was stories from other countries were similar. Regardless of the culture, the stories tended to have similar themes or motifs. Scholars tried to break them into two categories: genuine folk tales and literary fairy tales. However, they kept becoming entangled. In fact, the term fairy tales was so broad that before “fantasy” was defined as a genre, many stories such as Tolkien’s The Hobbit, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz would have been considered fairy tales.
Two different schools were established. The first as the Aarne-Thompson classification, based on the work of Antti Aarne and revised by Stith Thompson. This grouped tales according to their overall plot. Common features are picked out to decide which group they are put into, a numbering system. From there, addition features may lump stories together in subgroups. However, the weakness of the system is the difficulty of knowing what would be considered a subportion of the tale verses the motif.
The second was morphology. Creator Vladimir Propp, who studied Russian fairy tales, criticized the Aarne-Thompson analysis because it ignored what the motifs did. Instead of focusing on the plots, Propp looked at the outcome. He distinguished thirty-one elements, or functions, and seven characters, or spheres of actions (for instance, the princess and her father are a single sphere). The functions fall into six stages: preparation, complication, transference, struggle, return, and recognition. These can be repeated in the stories. An example of an element is a donor, or someone who gives assistance to the main character, possibly testing them.
So, happy endings for the fairy tale?
Almost. How the stories have been interpreted varies. The tales can be taken out of context and manipulated to fit whichever psychological analyses is being used, such as Freudian or Jungian or even various forms of mythology. Even in recent times, it has been claimed that fairy tales have conditioned children to accept mistreatments and abuse. However, some folklorists see them as a preserved historical representation, customs and sociological perspectives documented.
So, there you have it folks, a small story of how fairy tales came to be. Look to your local schools and libraries for special fairy tale readings and story hours. Or simply curl up next to a fireplace and enjoy a book with the yourself or the family!
Could you imagine how different your life would be different if there were no lights? No running water? How about no clocks? No Post-It Notes? No straws? Nearly everything around us is a result of someone thinking outside the box, fiddling around in their basement, garage, or office to fix a problem. Or, as my mother would say, find an easier more efficient way of doing something.
As a way to show these inventors thanks for the time and effort they have put forth to make modern life easier, safer, and, arguably to some, better, February 11 has been designated as National Inventors Day.
Who decided this?
On January 28, 1982 Senator Charles McC. Mathias, Jr. introduced Senate Joint Resolution 140 to the 97th congress (1981-1982) to designate February 11, 1993 as National Inventor Day. In March, it passed in the Senate and in June, passed in the House. On June 21, 1982 President Ronald Reagan signed it and it became Public Law No: 97-198.
On January 12, 1983, President Ronald Reagan declared February 11 as national Inventor’s day, Proclamation 5013, to “…call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities…Just as in George Washington’s day, inventors are the keystone of the technological progress that is so vital to the economic, environmental, and social well-being of this country.”
The date of February 11 was chosen because it is the birthday of Thomas Alva Edison, born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio, and best known for inventing the light bulb and holding over 1,000 patents.
Patent? What is that?
We’ll cover that later, but let’s start at the beginning. Before an inventor can get a patent, they need an invention.
An invention is a unique or original machine or process developed by a person or team. It can be an improvement on something that already exists or a completely brand new design. If an inventor is successful at their attempts, their results may be a major breakthrough. However, it may take many attempts and adjustments to their projects for this to occur, if they are lucky.
Inventors work through trial and error; developing ideas, scrapping them, and starting anew. The initial idea may change form, becoming more simple and practical, expand into a larger design, or change into something completely different. It is a creative process that opens the mind up to look beyond what is in front of them and possibly finding the connections between ideas may make no sense at first glance. This may not happen when an inventor is standing in their workspace. It can happen at any moment, any place, during any other task they may be performing.
Through the process the inventor needs to stay focused on what they may want as their final outcome, which can be hard since they do not know what the final outcome may be with each experiment or if they will be successful. It took Edison 1,000 attempts to make the light bulb. When a reporter asked him how it felt to fail 1,000 times, his response was, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
So, we have created something unique. Time to get a patent?
Patents legally protect an inventor’s work. It will grant exclusive rights to a person or company who invents any new and useful machine, article, or process. The patent creates the right to exclude others from making, using, and selling the inventions, making it subject to a fee. Patents usually last 20 years from the filing date. However, if an invention is an improvement of another patented product, that inventor can patent the improvement but must obtain permission from the original inventor to use it, which can be refused.
The application will contain a description of how to make and use the invention with enough detail for a person skilled in that field to understand. It is then reviewed to see if it meets the requirements of that country’s law, which vary. If denied, the applicant can appeal. If approved, the applicant is subject to renewal fees to keep the patent enforced over time. Currently, it is about $130 for a small object filing fee and $100 to $125 per page for drawings, possibly totaling up to $2,500 to $3,000 for a good quality application.
Now that we know the process, let’s talk about some notable inventors. It is National Inventors Day.
Born February 11, 1848, he loved to experiment as a child. He received his first patent on June 1, 1869 for the stock ticker, which later earned him a considerable amount of money. In the 1870’s, he sold the rights to the quadruplex telegraph to Western Union which gave him the financial ability to establish a proper laboratory for his work.
In 1877, Edison developed the phonograph, which captured widespread interest since it could record audio. After producing the electric light bulb, he formed the Edison Electric light company, distributing DC current to 59 customers in lower Manhattan with his first power station. He died of diabetes on October 18, 1931.
Leonardo da Vinci
Not only was da Vinci a famous Italian Renaissance artist, he was also and intellect and scientist. Born in 1452 in Vinci, Italy, he apprenticed to a famous artist known as Verrocchio where he acquired several technical skills, including the study of humanities, working with leather and metals, carpentry, drawing and painting, sculpting and casting, and drafting and mechanics. His notes and diagrams include observations on a wide range of topics including architecture, studies of plants, humans, rocks, anatomy, and flying machines.
Some of his well-known inventions are the parachute, the use of springs versus weights to operate a clock, ornithopter (winged flying machine), aerial screw (similar to the modern helicopter), and a robotic knight (which rumor has he actually built and it was powered by pulleys and gears). Da Vinci died on May 2, 1519.
Marya Slodovska was born in 1867 in Warsaw Poland to a poor but well educated family. She excelled in her studies and took an interested in chemistry and biology. She received a degree in physics and later in math. She pursed studies in radioactivity, discovering two new elements, one she named polonium after her home country. The next four years, she and her husband, Pierre Curie, studied the properties of radium, discovering its remarkable impacts. Though she suffered burns from it, the discovery of radium and the properties which can burn away diseased cells in the body lead to radiotherapy.
The Curies opted to not patent their invention and were later awarded the Davy Medal and the Nobel Prize in physics in 1903. After her husband’s death in 1905, she won a second Nobel Prize in chemistry for her discovery of actinium and further studies on radium and polonium. During World War I, she dedicated her time to the installation of x ray machines in hospitals, knowing they would help the treatment of soldiers. She died of cancer in 1934, a sad side effect from her ground breaking work in radiation.
Samuel Morse was born April 27, 1791 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He attended Yale College and studied religious philosophy, mathematics, and the science of horses, supporting himself by painting. In 1825 while working on a horse portrait, he received a message from his father stating Morse’s wife was convalescent. The next day, he received another letter that she was dead. By the time he returned home, she had already been buried. This prompted him to explore rapid long distance communication. With the help of other inventors who were more educated in electric-magnetics, they created and revolutionized the telegraph system: sending electrical signals over a wire between stations. He developed a code that assigned dots and dashes to the English alphabet to send messages across the telegraph lines. Morse’s first message was sent from Washington D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland in 1844. By 1866, a telegraph line place across the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S. to Europe. He died on April 2, 1872.
These are just a few of the many inventors whose work has laid the foundation for our lives today.
Do you have a favorite invention or inventor? Let us know in the comment section and let us celebrate their work together!
H2O #148: In Which We Discuss Crossing the Livestream
As some of you know, last year we were able to offer unprecedented coverage of Worldcon with our live-stream broadcast from the event in Kansas City. This year, we’re hoping to do more of that from other events. The livestream broadcast certainly seems to be a possible new model for us. And while it’s nothing new when it comes to gaming conventions, it’s still a new concept for the comicons. We’d love to make it the new “normal”…
But what’s involved? What does it take? And where should we go? You can help us decide.
PAX South: Come For the Atmosphere, Stay For the Atmosphere
[Guest article by Chris Grucza]
If you’re a gamer and you’ve never had the pleasure of attending any of the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) events, you should probably look to rectify that as soon as possible.
This year’s PAX South in San Antonio, Texas builds on the tradition in a very real way, delivering a gaming focused convention that doesn’t care what genre tickles your fancy – they’re all here with amazing representation.
Want to see some of the latest hardware from various computer vendors? Or find out what’s new in tabletop games? Maybe you just want to find out what Nintendo has up their sleeve next. PAX South 2017 answers all of those questions and more (Dell’s Alienware line actually looks like it might not suck any longer, it’s ridiculous how many new table top games there are, and the Nintendo Switch had a 4+ hour wait to demo it.)
But the real focus of the event isn’t the event itself. It’s the people and the community. One of the biggest issues I’ve seen at comic-con type conventions is the ridiculous amount of assumptions of consent due to cosplay. This has gotten so pervasive that Dallas Comic Con last year literally had signs up saying “Cosplay is not consent.” It can make for a wearisome day when that’s the vibe you’re trying to defeat.
PAX does not have that vibe. The PAX vibe is “Hey, we’re in line together and we don’t know each other but let’s play this card/dice game to kill time.” It’s “everyone’s a gamer and that’s awesome.” It’s “you’re new to the community so let’s welcome you.” It’s inclusive, loving and welcoming. All things that every convention should be.
Is there a point to this? Maybe, maybe not. But point yourself over to www.paxsite.com to keep informed as to when the upcoming PAX events are. If you’re a gamer, they’re required attending.”
Chris Grucza is a gamer, nerd, musician. Not always in that order.
One of the most popular creatures to show up in fantasy is the dragon. So today, in honor of National Dragon Day (January 16), let us take a look at why this mythical creature is so popular and how it became a dominate character in mythology.
First, what is a dragon?
The general definition is a legendary creature, usually scaled, fire spewing critter with serpentine, reptilian, or avian traits, hatching from eggs. Depending on which area of the world you are in will better determine how they look. For instance, a European dragon tend to be depicted as a reptilian creature with animal level intelligence, four legs and wings (and in some cases, multiple heads). Most Asian dragons are serpentine (snake like) with four legs and no wings. They also are commonly described as living in rivers, or having an underground lair, possibly even hoarding treasure. Other than that, any special distinctions depend on the culture.
But if dragons do not exist, then how do people know what they look like? What inspired them to create these descriptions?
If you did not know what a dinosaur was and found a collection of massive bones that did not resemble any creature you had ever seen, why not assume they are the dragons in your cultures mythology? Initial descriptions of the critters tend to be a mixture of various crocodiles, snakes, and salamanders. But like the idea that humans have inherited and evolved the characteristics of monkeys, the same is believed of dragons in regards to snakes, large cats, and birds of prey. From there, they adapt the cultural and literary expectations of the individual cultures and religions.
Let us look at the two major different cultures and break it down from there.
In many Asian cultures, dragons are considered as representatives of the primal forces of nature, religion and the universe. They are connected with wisdom, often said to be wiser than humans which also includes the ability to speak. In some of the traditions, it is said that dragons taught humans how to speak. They are also associated with longevity, very long lives, if they do die of a natural cause versus killed. It is also common for them to possess supernatural powers, magic.
The variances of dragons’ powers change with the different Eastern cultures. For instance, dragons are the highest-ranking animal in the Chinese animal hierarchy, strongly tied in with the emperor, representing power and majesty. They are also believed to be generous Chinese folklore. Hindu dragons are more of a cobra, a naga, and controlling water and rain, thus also fertility. Women in south India worship the nagas, giving offerings, believing to help with expanding and protecting their family, bringing prosperity. In Buddhism, nagas are more similarly related to the Chinese dragons, still in the form of a cobra, but may also have several heads. They can also use their magic to take the form of humans and have even been protectors of Buddha.
In the Japanese culture, they dragons are also water deities, large wingless serpentine creatures with clawed feet, associated with rainfall and bodies of water. Vietnamese culture believes the dragons also bring rain but similar to the Chinese culture, they represent the emperor, the prosperity, and the power of the nation. Also, similarly, it represents the symbol of yang, the universe, life, existence, and growth. The dragons are descended from a dragon and fairy. Filipino dragons are snake=like mermaids that can take human form, only evil toward humans if they are mistreated.
Most Western dragons are depicted similarly to Eastern dragons except they usually have wings. Before the spread of Christianity through the Western world, they were also viewed similarly to the East. However, that changed, taking a more sinister version created to represent Satan. In medieval times, most people knew of dragons from the Bible, from the Book of Job, chapter 41, Leviathan:
“I will not fail to speak of Leviathan’s limbs, its strength and its graceful form. Who can strip off its outer coat? Who can penetrate its double coat of armor? Who dares open the doors of its mouth, ringed about with fearsome teeth? Its back has rows of shields tightly sealed together; each is so close to the next that no air can pass between. They are joined fast to one another; they cling together and cannot be parted. Its snorting throws out flashes of light; its eyes are like the rays of dawn. Flames stream from its mouth; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke pours from its nostrils as from a boiling pot over burning reeds. Its breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from its mouth” (NIV).
The church created legends of righteous and godly saints battling and defeating Satan in the forms of dragons. It was believed they could breathe fire because they had their mouth was of hell. Artwork would depict the need to pass through the monster’s mouth to enter Hell, with flames and smoke.
The first mention of dragons in ancient Greece was Homer’s Iliad with Agamemnon described having a blue dragon motif on his sword belt and a three-headed dragon on his breast plate. These dragons were also described with having tusks like large swine’s, grow to great lengths, and long life spans.
In Eastern Europe, dragons usually had multiple heads, which could possibly grow back if they were cut off. Because they were so vile, according to Slavic myth, even Mother Earth would not allow them back into her ‘womb’ and have to remain above ground for all of eternity. The blood of a dragon is poisonous, acid-like, which could burn through armor and skin. Only in German legend is dragons blood useful for humans, with the power to have skin or armor bathed in it invincible.
What about modern dragons; do they exist?
In our current culture, dragons are in our literature, games, and large and small screens as folklore. These forms of modern day mythology will be passed down from generation to generation. The stories are usually in fantasy setting versus the mechanical world we currently live in, even though there are a few stories that blend machines with magical creatures, like Reign of Fire, The Dragonriders of Pern series, Harry Potter, and even Godzilla. People are enamored by dragons, the beauty of their imagery, the magic they can perform, and even as scary as they may look, the pureness their hearts can possess. They can be muses, a formidable opponent. or simply a part of the landscape.
Now I could go through a list of notable dragons, but instead I’m going to list some of my favorites.
I want to start with the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. In short, these books follow Eragon, who discovers one of the last remaining dragon eggs in Alagaesia, which hatch for him (they hatch for only their true rider). Together, he and Saphira fight the evil Galbatorix and free the people of his land. Of course, more happens, without giving away too much, but Saphira is a beautiful, blue dragon with the pureness (and fun) of a child’s heart that matures through the books. The bond with Eragon continually grows throughout the story. Unfortunately, there is more I would love to say to support my love of dragons here even more, but I do not want to spoil it for any future readers.
The Harry Potter World
Next, how can one not think of the wizarding world of Harry Potter? J.K. Rowling peppers the books with dragons. Hagrid tries to raise a dragon. Ron’s brother, Charlie Weasley works with dragons in Romania. Cornelius Fudge suggested using dragons to guard the school after removing the Dementors. There is a dragon in the wizard bank, Gringotts. Harry has a challenge against a dragon in the Tri Wizard Tournament.
In fact, Harry, Ron, and Hermione rode a dragon. However, dragons are not just used when they are alive. Their blood, claws, eggs, and heart strings, to name a few, are listed throughout the books as material need or used in the wizarding world.
Who can ignore our cultured current obsession with the Daenerys Stormborn of the House of Targaryen, First of her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons’ three little pets. The Queen of England has her corgis, Dany has her dragons. In George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the Khaleesi is the last of her house, who controlled dragons years before her birth and were killed off. She has three eggs hatch for her and are loyal to her, especially her black dragon, Drogon, name after her Khal Drogo. The moment that she takes flight with Drogon is breathtaking and makes a nervous readers a little jealous.
Even though I work for the hooded figures in Nightvale, I will cautiously say, I did vote for Hiram McDaniels. I do understand that most likely by the end of the day, an envelope will show up under my door and I will join my fellow interns in the dog park. But until then, just know I am the third longest living intern behind current Mayor Dana, the Intern and Kareem. All Hail the Glow Cloud. (Hiram is a five headed dragon featured on the podcast Welcome to Nightvale, terrified the town, and then unsuccessfully ran for mayor. Too many arguments between the heads.)
Albi, The Racist Dragon
A group I thoroughly enjoy, the New Zealand duo Flight of the Conchords has a song from their Folk the World Tour Live album released in 2002 called Albi. Albi is a racist green dragon who lives in a marmalade forest between the make-believe trees, in a cottage cheese cottage (of course). The song is the story of his exile and redemption and the little Albanian boy. In only the way the Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie can tell the story.
Speaking of Bret McKenzie, while most people were enjoying his portrayal as an Elf in The Hobbit films, they may have missed that other character, Smaug, the primary antagonist of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book. The last of the dragons of Middle Earth, he seized the mountain containing the dwarf treasures, scorching the area around the Lonely Mountain into a wasteland. This “most specially greedy, strong, and wicket worm” provides a great piece of entertainment, which makes it hard to remember him as the bad guy.
This is where the gamer comes out. For years, my life was shaped by this particular dragon who was originally thought dead, but not. In World of Warcraft, Deathwing the Destroyer was one of the five Dragon Aspects, driven mad, turning against the other Aspects, hid himself within the Alliance, and turned his greatest enemy into a slave of the Horde. After setbacks and defeat from the other Aspects, he disappeared only to return in Cataclysm, the third expansion to World of Warcraft. As an achievement freak in game, being killed by Deathwing gained you the Stood in the Fire achievement. At any time he could spawn in either Kalimdor or the Eastern Kingdoms, killing anything in his path. If you were lucky enough to have your toon there and die, congratulations to you! Many night I followed the rumors from various gaming blogs that his route is not as random as Blizzard claims it to be. However, it is one I never did achieve sadly. Maybe one day.
FAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLCOOOOOOOOR! Who can forget Atreyu’s traveling companion, Falcor the luckdragon from The Never Ending Story? He’s like a flying dog who helps Atreyu discover a sense of bravery and becomes his very best friend. As a child, I wanted Falcor to show up and fly me off. Always optimistic, friends, helpful and wise. As he always says, “never give up and good luck will find you.”
All right, it’s your turn. Leave us a comment and let us know some of your favorite dragons.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen and heard news about the financial and legal troubles faced by Wizard World. CMO Stephen Shamus was unceremoniously fired, and then Wizard World sued him over allegations that he’d defrauded the company and finagled autographs and collectibles for his own personal pockets.
Then we got word that Wizard World as a company was in the hole for a lot of money. Have they over-extended? Have they reached the point where it’s impossible for them to recover?
This week, we go through the timeline and opine about the state of Wizard World — and by extension, other really big conventions.
Filipino Writers Unite at FilAm Creative TV Writers Panel
Attendees gathered at Filipino Workers Center to engage with a panel of some of the biggest writers in television for a fundraiser for FilAm Creative to talk diversity, how to get into the writing business and what to do when you’re the only non-white person in the room.
Writers Michael Golamco (Grimm), Rene Gube (who also plays “Father Brah” on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Ray Utarnachitt (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) joined editor Dexter Adriano (Marvel’s Agents of S. H. I. E. L. D.) who served as Moderator for an illuminating panel discussion. After the discussion, the writers took questions from the crowd and the evening ended with a 50/50 fundraising raffle in which the lucky audience member won a gift bag with comics and the panel all were given the same gift for attending. Theirs included Red Horse, a Filipino beer. There was an after party at Kapistahan Grill not too far away from the Pilipino Workers Center.
In addition to the FilAm Creative TV Writers Panel, I was able to get a sit down interview with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writer and actor Rene Gube. You can hear the audio below.
This is Elle Latham for SciFi4Me.com. So Rene. Tell me a little bit how you got into the industry.
I…was a…very bad History teacher in Downtown LA and then…I found out that I was a pretty good improviser by studying at the Upright Citizens Brigade. And…my initial intention was to be an actor… and then as…I went along in the program at Upright Citizens Brigade, I learned that there were, for every acting job there were eight writing jobs…so like learn to write if you want to work. (laughter) So I learned how to write. I bought a book. (laughter) I bought one of those formula books and…learned how to write with my…writing partner and then that’s how I got my first manager and my first job.
That’s great. So a little bit about the writing process on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, how it works and the collaborative nature…
Um…very collaborative. …We break stories as a group, we then turn those stories into outlines as a group. …And then that outline will be taken off…by a single writer for like a week and that writer will turn that outline into a draft and then once that draft is finished, it returns to the room and it…and then it becomes again a collective writing process where the original writer of the first draft is sort of like captain of like the Soul Team. Like ‘remember like the spirit of the story is this. (laughter) Remember we promised ourselves we were gonna try to do this,’ you know? So like that’s like their, their job is to…because they’ve been closest to the story from the beginning, is to remind the group who, who’d by that point been discussing eight other stories that like there was something interesting at the core of the break that we need to try to execute because it was special at some point.
Are there…any specific musical performances that you enjoyed the most?
Um..(laughter) Well, I would say…yeah. I think recently like I think it was last week…Vincent Rodriguez (“Josh Chan”) had a song that was like a sendup of like a Jason Mraz type of song.
The song was called, I believe it’s called “Thought Bubbles.“ Um.
I love “Thought Bubbles.”
(Here’s a link)
I…man…it was written. It was spearheaded by one of our writers Jack Dolgen and then…again, that writing process is very collective with Adam Schlesinger and Rachel Bloom and…he just-he just nailed it. It-It’s one of those perfect numbers on the show where it-it fits in perfectly with the-the emotion…emotional point of the story but you can also lift that bit and it can live on the internet and it makes…it’s funny on its own and…it’s a perfect sendup of the genre…and I just think he killed it. And then Vinny just like destroyed that number like there’s-I can just…he’s literally sitting at a desk and the camera’s panning left and right and he’s like filling that frame with like really specific stuff. He did a great job.
Since I’m working for SciFi4Me, is there anything coming up that’s sci-fi oriented?
Um…I mean…you know…if you watch the show, you know that like a good portion of the show exists in-
…Rachel’s brain. So uh…yeah. I mean like-anything is possible. You know. Like…yeah. So yes. The answer is ‘yes.’ Yeah.
Make sure to support the work of Filipino writers in TV by watching DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Marvel’s Agents of S. H. I. E. L. D., Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Grimm. If you want to help FilAm Creative in their efforts to advance Filipino talent in entertainment and media, please visit their website and become a volunteer.
Fil-Am Creative Presents a Television Writers Panel In LA
Fil–Am Creative (FAC) will be hosting a television writer’s panel on Saturday December 3, 2016 at the Pilipino Workers Center in Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles. The featured panelists are Michael Golamco, Rene Gube, and Ray Utarnachitt with Dexter Adriano moderating.
The Fil-Am Creative: Television Writers Panel’s goal is to help Asian-Americans, mainly Filipino Americans, navigate the industry and promote the “story-telling” profession of entertainment, educating about opportunities and struggles behind the camera.
Moderator Dexter Adriano is a veteran TV and film editor and was co-executive producer for the first Filipino American Film, The Debut. He started at Concorde/New Horizons, owned by renowned filmmaker Roger Corman. He worked as an assistant editor on the TV show Clueless and the films Selena and Three Kings. Currently he is an editor for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
LA-based screenwriter and playwright Michael Golamco wrote for Grimm and developed pilots for NBC, Freeform, and Warner Bros. Television. His plays have been produced internationally and locally, including New York City, Chicago, and Louisville. His latest feature film, Please Stand By, stars Dakota Fanning, Toni Collette, and Alice Eve and is directed by Ben Lewin.
Executive story editor and writer for The CW’s My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Rene Gube’s first written episode was “My First Thanksgiving” where Josh introduced his entire Filipino Family. Other writing credits include NBC’s Up All Night and TBS’ Ground Floor and Men At Work. As an actor, he has a reccurring role as Father Brah on My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and roles on the shows The Office, Newsroom and Community. He also performs improv and sketch comedy.
Michigan native Ray Utarnachitt is an executive story editor and writer on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. He began his college career as a Pre-Med major, eventually graduating with a film degree. Starting with work on commercials, music videos and features, he has now written for shows such as Person of Interest and The Tomorrow People.
FAC is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to the advancement of Filipino-Americans in entertainment and media. They are a group of filmmakers, writers, artists, photographers, actors, musicians, models, comedians, executives, representatives, lawyers, Filipinos and supporters involved in entertainment and media. Their membership is not limited to Filipinos, simply anyone who believes in their mission and supports what they do.
Other events FAC has held include speed networking, Music Showcases, FAC’s Halo-Halo Headshots, and The Hollywood Actors Panel & Networking. They have also held movie festival sponsorships, college panels & workshops, food tours, and any other events that bring together the Filipino artistic and creative community.
The 2016 World Fantasy Convention was held this past weekend in Columbus, Ohio, where the theme was “Flights of Fantasy”. The announced guests of honor were Mercedes Lackey, Larry Dixon, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Randal Spangler. Hosted at the Hyatt Regency, this year’s event marks the first since the decision to change the design of the award and move away from the bust of H.P. Lovecraft.
First held in 1975 in Providence, Rhode Island, the World Fantasy Convention is an annual convention for industry professionals, collectors, and fans of fantasy art and literature. The 2016 World Fantasy Convention was presented by The Science Oriented Literature, Art & Education Foundation (SOLAE). The Science Oriented Literature, Art & Education Foundation (SOLAE) is based in Columbus, Ohio.
2016 World Fantasy AwardsSM
Final Ballot and Life Achievement Award Winners
Winners listed in red.
David G. Hartwell
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant (Knopf/Faber & Faber)
N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (Orbit)
Naomi Novik, Uprooted (Del Rey Books/Macmillan UK)
K. J. Parker, Savages (Subterranean Press) Anna Smaill, The Chimes (Sceptre) (winner)
Paul Tremblay, A Head Full of Ghosts (William Morrow & Co.)
LONG FICTION Kelly Barnhill, The Unlicensed Magician (PS Publishing) (winner)
Usman T. Malik, “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” (Tor.com, Apr. 22, 2015)
Kim Newman, “Guignol” (Horrorology, edited by Stephen Jones, Jo Fletcher Books)
Kelly Robson, “Waters of Versailles” (Tor.com, June 10, 2015)
Bud Webster, “Farewell Blues” (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan./Feb. 2015)
Selena Chambers, “The Neurastheniac” (Cassilda’s Song, ed. Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. Chaosium Inc)
Amal El-Mohtar, “Pockets” (Uncanny Magazine, Jan.-Feb. 2015)
Sam J. Miller, “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” (Uncanny Magazine, Jan.-Feb. 2015)
Tamsyn Muir, “The Deepwater Bride” (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/Aug. 2015) Alyssa Wong, “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” (Nightmare magazine, Oct. 2015) (winner)
Ellen Datlow, ed., The Doll Collection (Tor Books)
S. T. Joshi, ed., Black Wings IV: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror (PS Publishing) Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles, eds., She Walks in Shadows (Innsmouth Free Press) (winner)
Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., ed., Cassilda’s Song: Tales Inspired by Robert W. Chambers’ King in Yellow Mythos (Chaosium Inc.)
Simon Strantzas, ed., Aickman’s Heirs (Undertow Publications)
COLLECTION C. S. E. Cooney, Bone Swans (Mythic Delirium Books) (winner)
Leena Krohn, Leena Krohn: Collected Fiction (Cheeky Frawg Books)
V. H. Leslie, Skein and Bone (Undertow Publications)
Kelly Link, Get in Trouble (Random House)
James Morrow, Reality by Other Means: The Best Short Fiction of James Morrow (Wesleyan University Press)
Mary Rickert, You Have Never Been Here (Small Beer Press)
Richard Anderson Galen Dara (winner)
Thomas S. Kuebler
SPECIAL AWARD – PROFESSIONAL
Neil Gaiman, Dave Stewart, and J. H. Williams III, The Sandman: Overture (Vertigo) Stephen Jones, for The Art of Horror (Applause Theatre Book & Cinema Book Publishers) (winner)
Robert Jordan, Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk, and Maria Simons, for The Wheel of Time Companion: The People, Places and History of the Bestselling Series (Tor Books)
Joe Monti, for contributions to the genre
Heather J. Wood, for Gods, Memes and Monsters: A 21st Century Bestiary (Stone Skin Press)
SPECIAL AWARD – NONPROFESSIONAL
Scott H. Andrews, for Beneath Ceaseless Skies: Literary Adventure Fantasy
Jedediah Berry and Eben Kling, for The Family Arcana: A Story in Cards (Ninepin Press) John O’Neill, for Black Gate: Adventures in Fantasy Literature (winner)
Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein, for Letters to Tiptree (Twelfth Planet Press)
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, for Uncanny Magazine
Helen Young, for Tales After Tolkien Society
Dark Shadows 50th Anniversary Halloween in Hollywood unites original cast members
Fifty years ago, the world was introduced to a new soap opera. It examined the lives and emotional relationships between your classic drama filled Collins family members living beautiful Collinsport, Maine. Oh, did we mention one of the family members is a vampire? Talk about your crazy cousin.
Dark Shadows debuted June 27, 1966 and ran through April 2, 1971, for 1,225 episodes. The Gothic show became a cult classic and attracted 20 million housewives and teenagers, with story lines that featured ghosts, werewolves, zombies, and a parallel universe to name a few. To help with the dwindling ratings, the show introduced Barnabas Collins, a 175-year-old vampire in search of new blood and his lost love for what was originally to be a 13 week run. Due to his popularity and the increase in viewership, he remained on the show.
On October 29th, a dozen of Dark Shadows stars and production personnel will come together for the Dark Shadows 50th Anniversary Halloween in Hollywood. Guests include Lara Parker (Angelique), John Karlen (Willie Loomis), Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans), Roger Davis (Peter Bradford), Nancy Barrett (Carolyn Stoddard), and James Storm (Gerard) to name a few.
The event will allow fans to meet and greet the actors, receive complimentary autographs, question and answer sessions, performances from the stars, and rare video screenings. They will also be celebrating Lara Parkers new book, Dark Shadows – The Heiress of Collinwood which will be released in November.
Dark Shadows 50th Anniversary Halloween in Hollywood starts at 12 noon on Saturday, October 29th and will run till 12 midnight at the Woman’s Club of Hollywood, 1749 N. La Brea Avenue in Hollywood. Admission is $20 for adults, $10 for children 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at http://www.darkshadowsfestival.com/
Lynda Carter Teams With the United Nations for Wonder Woman Day
Mark your calendars: October 21 just became Wonderful!
The United Nations has declared this day Wonder Woman Day in honor of the iconic female DC Comic super hero for her 75th anniversary appearance in DC’s All Star Comics #8. In January 1942, she was featured on her first cover, Sensation Comics #1. Since the 1970’s, Wonder Woman has been featured in several forms of media.
To make the ceremony at their headquarters in New York even better is the announcement that Lynda Carter, who portrayed Diana Prince/Wonder Woman on the hit TV series from 1975-1979, will be attendance.
The role helped launch Carter’s career and she has had a steady stream of work since, from live acting to voice acting and video games. She has also embraced her character and the devoted fan base. In a recent interview with Closer Weekly, she spoke of the character’s popularity:
“Wonder Woman taught women to be who you are. I have received the greatest letters from people telling me what an inspiration she was to them because she represents an inner strength every woman has.”
Besides the ceremony to honor Wonder Woman’s birthday, earlier this year, the United States Post Office announced a series of forever stamps featuring the character as she has appeared in DC comics throughout the years: Gold Age (1941-55), Silver Age (1956-72), Bronze Age (1973-86), and Modern Age (1987-present).
Wonder Woman will finally grace the silver screen with Gal Gadot in the role. The character also makes her way to new literature as well: Jill Thompson’s Wonder Woman: The True Amazon and two DC Comics releases, a hard cover graphic novel to celebrate her silver anniversary, Wonder Woman: A Celebration of 75 Years and a special 80-page comic celebrating 75 years of Wonder Woman, to be released on October 26.